The 2014 GreenBuilt Home Tour is almost here.
Like last year, the tour will last all of two days. This year, those days are July 26 and 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Like the inaugural 2013 tour, there will be more than a dozen houses open for viewing at scattered sites in Chicago and the suburbs.
An all-access pass for unlimited visits on both days costs $25. Single-house visits are $10. Those younger than 18 get in free. Proceeds go to support the U.S Green Building Council Chicago chapter, the tour's sponsor.
This year, there are 15 houses on the tour, which compares well with last year's 16. The 15 houses at scattered sites present a problem. It is almost impossible to visit all the tour entries in two days, as was the complaint last year, according to USGB Illinois chapter executive director Brian Imus.
"Typically the people visit two or three homes but not all of them, although last year one or two persons visited all 16," Imus said. "We had 1,500 visitors last year, and the feedback was that there was not enough time to visit all the locations."
Tour houses are in Hampshire, Geneva, Chicago, Oak Park, River Forest and other locales in the city's collar counties (mostly west and northwest). For information, visit www.greenbuilthometour.org.
Imus said he would like to extend the tour over two weekends, but that is unlikely.
"Some of these homes have people, families, living in them, and it is hard to convince a family or a couple or an owner to vacate their homes two weeks in a row," he said.
Three of the tour entries are built or under construction by Brandon Weiss, president of Weiss Building & Development in South Elgin.
In downtown Geneva, Weiss is building the first nontoxic passive house in Illinois, and the second one in the country. He calls it the Uber Haus, which is at 529 Eklund Ave. He will use the two-story, 2,500-square-foot, five-bedroom house as a sales model when completed later this year or in early 2015.
At the Serosun Farms subdivision in Hampshire, he is working on Swainsen's House. The 5,000-square-foot two-story with a three-car semiattached garage is under construction at 45W588 N Serosun Lane.
Weiss' Adaptable House is at 514 Monroe Ave., River Forest.
"We completed it and the couple just moved in (May). This is a five-bedroom, 3,200-square-foot two-story with four bedrooms and an attached two-car garage. I have not been granted permission by the owners to reveal the price," Weiss said.
Weiss said that a green-built house carries a 4 percent or 5 percent premium over a normal structure. The premium is repaid by immense savings in utility bills, he said. Such a house, he added, also is healthier and easier on the environment.
Weiss will staff his three tour locations.
"I will be at the Uber Haus. People can meet me there," he said. "Our project manager, Patrick Danaher, and our operations manager, Jamie Carr, will be at the River Forest house. Our architect, Tom Bassett-Dilley, will be at one of them. At Serosun Farms, we will have some of our field operations people, but the Serosun Farms developer, John DeWald, and his people also will be on site."
Weiss emphasized the wisdom of visiting a green-built house under construction.
"If they go to a house under construction, they get to see the true quality of what is being built, such as the mechanical systems, the longevity performance built into the house," he said. "They see what is behind the walls, and how the house is built that is so important. Green homes can look like whatever you want them to look like as far as design is concerned. It is what's behind the walls that makes the big difference."
During the two-day event, people learn ways the house-built environment contributes to a healthier community, Imus suggested. His tour website said visitors get to see and meet "the builders, designers and homeowners who created healthy, energy saving green homes. Together they send a clear message: to reduce our nation’s need to produce energy we must 'build it tight and vent it right.'"
All houses on the tour were third-party verified (or pending verification) to ensure they were built (or being built) to national standards, earning certification through programs such as Energy Star for Homes, LEED for Homes, the National Green Building Standard, DOE Challenge Home, Illinois Green Star and Passive House.
Imus said the tour is unique.
"I know of only one other tour that is like that, and it is in New Mexico," he said. "There is nothing like this in Illinois. This tour is a great opportunity to connect with green builders and learn about all the efficient and healthy building products out there.
"We followed up with folks on last year's tour, and we found they were interested in building a green home and wanted to talk to the builders. Well, the builders are there at their houses. These visitors wanted to know the techniques and how to design the homes. Unlike other new-home tours where people just like to sight-see, we found that most of the people on our tour actually wanted to build a green home and to make it more energy efficient. That was shocking for a lot of the builders. They did not know people could be so interested. The builders got a lot of good questions, and the builders had to answer them."
The local chapter of the USGBC has more than 1,000 members, Imus said. The chapter was founded in Chicago in 2002.
"Our mission is to promote green sustainable housing," Imus said.
For information, visit www.usgbc-Chicago.org or call 312-245-8300.